NEW YORK, JAN. 24 -- The stock market turned in a strong showing today amid revived optimism about the outlook for domestic interest rates and progress in the war against Iraq.
The Dow Jones average of 30 industrial stocks rose 24.01 points to 2643.07 on top of Wednesday's 15.84-point gain.
Oil prices, meanwhile, dropped today for the first time this week, as traders pulled back to assess the course of the Persian Gulf War. Crude oil for delivery in March closed with a loss of 33 cents at $21.71 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, breaking a three-day streak of gains of more than $5.
"We've had three good days, it was time for a bit of selling to come in," one oil trader said.
Unleaded gasoline for February delivery ended 0.50 cent lower at 62.60 cents a gallon, while heating oil fell 0.33 cent to 69.82 cents a gallon.
Analysts said the oil selling was also fostered by the absence of any dramatic developments in the Persian Gulf conflict, which is now in its second week.
"The news took a holiday," said Susan Hammergren of Geldermann Inc., commodities traders.
On the stock market, analysts said traders seemed to have absorbed the idea that the war would take some time to produce conclusive results. For the moment, they said, investors remained generally optimistic that U.S.-led forces were succeeding in their efforts and would prevail.
Wall Street also welcomed congressional testimony by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, in which he indicated both Tuesday and Wednesday that the Fed stood ready to provide further stimulus to the domestic economy.
Interest rates declined in the government bond market today, putting yields on long-term Treasury bonds at about 8.18 percent.
Advancing stock issues outnumbered declining ones by more than a 3-to-1 ratio in nationwide trading of New York Stock Exchange-listed stocks, and volume on the floor of the Big Board came to 223.15 million shares, against 169.44 million in the previous session.
Gainers among the blue chips included International Business Machines, up 1 3/4 at 121; Pepsico, up 1 1/8 at 28; Philip Morris, up 1 at 54 1/2; and General Electric, up 1 1/4 at 58 1/2.
Data General increased 4 to 8 1/4. The stock's near-doubling in price came as the company reported a 41-cents-a-share quarterly profit, against a loss in the corresponding period a year earlier.
Pfizer gained 1 3/8 to 85 7/8. The board of directors declared a 2-for-1 stock split, raised its dividend and authorized the company to buy back as many as 5 million of its shares.
Bankers Trust New York fell 4 3/8 to 41. The company posted higher fourth-quarter profits, but said its 1991 results were likely to show the effects of recession.
Blockbuster Entertainment led the active list, down 2 1/4 at 25 5/8 on turnover of more than 4.7 million shares. The company said it couldn't explain the pressure on the stock, after it reported higher fourth-quarter earnings that about matched advance estimates.
The NYSE's composite index of all its listed common stocks gained 2.48 to 182.64. Standard & Poor's 500-stock composite index was up 4.57 at 334.78. The Nasdaq composite index for the over-the-counter market added 4.90 to 383.93. At the American Stock Exchange, the market value index closed at 306.70, up 2.46.